Three Muslims Murdered In North Carolina Over Alleged Parking Space Dispute [UPDATED]

150211-craig-stephen-hicks-mug-445a_707658ca1802ba12cbd652277ac91d90.nbcnews-ux-600-440ShowImage.ashxThere is a horrible triple murder being investigated this morning in North Carolina where three people from a Muslim family were allegedly murdered by Craig Stephen Hicks, 46. Some are speculating that Hicks’ strong atheist views may have been a factor after reading this “anti-theist” positions on the Internet. He has been described in some media account as a “radical atheist” though atheists have rarely engaged in violent acts against religious persons. UPDATE: Police have said that the dispute was not religiously motivated but a dispute over a parking space.

chapel-hill-victims-4258FC82F00000578-2948803-image-a-3_1423647578198All three victims are from the same family and identified as Deah Shaddy Barakat, his wife Yusor Mohammad, 21, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, 19. From all accounts, the family was the epitome of a hard-working and successful American family. Barakat was a dental student at the University of North Carolina was a volunteer giving free dental care to Palestinian children. He also helped provide free dental supplies to 75 homeless people in downtown Durham. The recently married couple also organized a fundraiser to raise money for dental care for refugees from Syria. Barakat was going to travel to Turkey to help treat child refugees. His sister-in-law Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha had been studying for a degree at North Carolina State University in Architecture and Environmental Design.

All three were shot in the head.

Hicks posted anti-religious positions on the Internet and asked “why radical Christians and radical Muslims are so opposed to each others’ influence when they agree about so many ideological issues”? His page suggests that he is paralegal at Durham Technical Community College. He reported turned himself in.

hicks-chapel-hill-gunNews organizations have been focusing on Hicks’ anti-religious statements on the Internet as well as his photograph of a gun. However, anti-religious sentiments do not naturally lead to gunning down family’s of religious people (any more than stated religious beliefs or anti-atheist views naturally leads to killing atheists or agnostics). That does not mean that this was not a motivation in this case but we have little information at this point. Update: The police said that they have evidence of a long-standing parking space dispute.

hicks-chapel-hill-buggyhicks-chapel-hill-disneyNothing is known of any prior interaction or mental disorders on the part of Hicks. Hicks also posted less threatening images, including photos with his wife.

Atheist leaders immediately condemned the murders. The numerous articles focusing on Hicks’ reported atheist views show no specific connection to this family or advocacy of anti-religious violence. However, it creates the possibility of a crime motivated by religious hostilities and is presumably being investigated as a possible hate crime. In the end, the classification of the murders as a hate crime are unlikely to materially affect the prosecution in the case if Hicks confessed to the murders. The question remains an insanity defense. As previously discussed, the insanity defense has been substantially curtailed in this country. I believe that North Carolina uses the M’Naghten Rule with the burden of proof on the defendant. The test is generally defined as meaning “the defendant was laboring under such a defect of reason from disease or deficiency of mind at the time of the alleged act as to be (1) incapable of knowing the nature and quality of his act, or (2) incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong with respect to such act.” State v. Mancuso, 364 S.E.2d 359 (1988) (relying on State v. Evangelista, 319 N.C. 152, 353 S.E.2d 375 (1987)).

Once invoked, the state can press for an examination, though it is often ordered by the Court sua sponte.

(a) If a defendant intends to raise the defense of insanity, the defendant must file a notice of the defendant’s intention to rely on the defense of insanity as provided in G.S. 15A-905(c) and, if the case is not subject to that section, within a reasonable time prior to trial. The court may for cause shown allow late filing of the notice or grant additional time to the parties to prepare for trial or make other appropriate orders.

(b) In cases not subject to the requirements of G.S. 15A-905(c), if a defendant intends to introduce expert testimony relating to a mental disease, defect, or other condition bearing upon the issue of whether the defendant had the mental state required for the offense charged, the defendant must within a reasonable time prior to trial file a notice of that intention. The court may for cause shown allow late filing of the notice or grant additional time to the parties to prepare for trial or make other appropriate orders.

(c) Upon motion of the defendant and with the consent of the State the court may conduct a hearing prior to the trial with regard to the defense of insanity at the time of the offense. If the court determines that the defendant has a valid defense of insanity with regard to any criminal charge, it may dismiss that charge, with prejudice, upon making a finding to that effect. The court’s denial of relief under this subsection is without prejudice to the defendant’s right to rely on the defense at trial. If the motion is denied, no reference to the hearing may be made at the trial, and recorded testimony or evidence taken at the hearing is not admissible as evidence at the trial. (1973, c. 1286, s. 1; 1977, c. 711, s. 25; 2004-154, s. 10.)


280 thoughts on “Three Muslims Murdered In North Carolina Over Alleged Parking Space Dispute [UPDATED]”

  1. Jeff Silberman said…

    I’m just not into it, man. If religion works for you, that’s great!

    I wasn’t either for 69 years. My “revelation” so to speak was to finally admit there are things I do not know, may never know, but that are real none the less. I find the concept that one is not omniscient is very “rational.”

    On topic, now, I still feel the crime committed in NC was hate motivated…anger at an individual driver rising to homicide might fly for me, but when it is 3 people of the same ethnicity and faith that are shot in the head, in the same flow of action,I can’t escape the idea that parking issues were coincidental and tangential. “Parking space” may have been a “spark” perhaps, but not the motivation…e.g., the other 2 persons were not using a parking space, they were passengers.

  2. Reading into this today, I copied this from Wikipedia in describing Kant’s philosophy on this topic:

    “To the empiricist he argued that while it is correct that experience is fundamentally necessary for human knowledge, reason is necessary for processing that experience into coherent thought. He therefore concludes that both reason and experience are necessary for human knowledge. In the same way, Kant also argued that it was wrong to regard thought as mere analysis. In Kant’s views, a priori concepts do exist, but if they are to lead to the amplification of knowledge, they must be brought into relation with empirical data.”

    I’ll buy that. But I fear we have strayed way off topic!

  3. And beer must ultimately pass through the kidneys. Your example provides a very cogent argument in favor of positivism.

  4. Davidm:

    Faith is used to refer to a belief that is not based on proof or evidence. I contend that it is not in accordance with reason or logic, that is to say, rational, to put one’s trust in beliefs that have no justification by means of evidence, that is to say, faith.
    I am therefore a positivist. I do not believe in revelation.


    Your contribution is too esoteric for me! Suffice it to say that I place my faith in facts not mere beliefs. A fact is a belief that is true, of course, because a “false fact” is an oxymoron. But truth is not sufficient. Suppose a man holds out both his clenched fists and asks you to pick the hand with the quarter. You believe the right hand holds the quarter. Suppose you are correct. Is your correct belief a fact? No, it is not because you have no reason to believe the quarter is there. You simply made a lucky guess. But were you to say that you saw him put the quarter in his right palm- evidence- then it is a fact that the quarter is there. Facts are true *justifiable* beliefs. While there is no evidence of a god now, there may come a time when earthlings can prove or disapprove the existence of god. If our civilization ever makes contact with another advanced civilization on another planet, and the aliens do not have a similar Genesis myth as planet Earth, Christians will have a lot of explaining to do….

    1. Jeff Silberman

      That was the Big Bang Theory as explained by Georges Lemaitre, A Catholic Priest who was also an Astrophysicist.

      In 1927, Lemaître published in Belgium a virtually unnoticed paper that provided a compelling solution to the equations of General Relativity for the case of an expanding universe.

      Once again, although you might deny what made the Scientist make his leap here – “As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being… For the believer, it removes any attempt at familiarity with God… It is consonant with Isaiah speaking of the hidden God, hidden even in the beginning of the universe.”

      And he was trying to keep it separate for you by telling you like Paul C. Schulte always does – The Unknowable Known.

      I am sorry if that is too esoteric for you but it is like your “eyes wide shut you know?” 😉

      Most people when they “Hear God” reach a profound state of meditation where “He” is in their minds eye, if you will. It is just something you have to be open to.

    2. Jeff Silberman wrote: “Faith is used to refer to a belief that is not based on proof or evidence. … I am therefore a positivist.”

      For the positivist, empirical proof is the only kind of proof, but for the rationalist (which is what I am), there is internal proof. Faith is based upon internal proof, which is subjective proof. It is rational because the mind comprehends it and uses logic to confirm its perception.

      As the physicist Heisenberg opined in objecting to positivism, all evidence, including objective empirical evidence, ultimately must pass through the mind.

  5. Athiests. Well. If the guy had a Dog and talked to the Dog then he probably would not have killed these people. Whether you are a religious Christian or Muslim or other, if you listen to your Dog you will get good guidance. My guess in this situation is that the guy does not have a Dog or if he has one he does not talk to the Dog. Now THAT is a non believer. Forget the prayers folks. Talk to your Dog. If you don’t have one then talk to the neighbor’s Dog. Remember: God spulled backwards is Dog.

  6. Happypappies,

    Religious people are not insane; they are irrational. Faith in the unproven is irrational because reason demands proof or at least some evidence to believe in the supernatural.


    Intent is the sine qua non of criminal culpability. Intent is irrelevant in cases of negligence which is a tort or a civil offense.

    Punishment serves 3 purposes: 1) it deters the perpetrator by imprisoning him, 2) it deters others by his example and 3) it serves to meet out retribution which is giving him his “just desserts.”

    This is all first-year law school learning.

    1. Jeff Silberman – do you every watch movies or tv. There is a thing called ‘suspension of disbelief’ which allows you to accept the fictional characters as real for the purposes of the drama or comedy. Same for books. Does that make you irrational? It does if you cannot do it. We know normal people have been doing it since 400 BC when the Greeks were presenting their plays every year to Dionysos.

    2. Jeff Silberman wrote: “Faith in the unproven is irrational because reason demands proof or at least some evidence to believe in the supernatural.”

      Totally disagree. Faith that is not rational is not faith at all. It is impossible to have faith in anything that is not rational.

      Reason is something internal, in the mind. It can easily operate completely separately from empirical proof. Everybody knows this because they do it all the time. It is self evident, but many scientists deny it because they want to be positivists and claim their area of specialization on the empirical holds the keys to all the knowledge in the world. Note that Rationalists believe that knowledge can come internally from intuition or spiritual revelation, whereas Positivists deny that there are any metaphysics whatsoever, no spirit, no soul, no angels, no gods. They believe all knowledge is only through sense perception, through empirical proof. So of these two camps, which has the label rationalist? The one that accepts the concepts of faith and revelation as being valid avenues to knowledge. How then can you claim that it is not rational to have faith?

    3. Jeff Silberman

      Regarding Irrational Religious People

      Appealing to the new quantum theory of matter, Lemaître argued that the physical universe was initially a single particle—the “primeval atom” as he called it—which disintegrated in an explosion, giving rise to space and time and the expansion of the universe that continues to this day. This idea marked the birth of what we now know as Big Bang cosmology.

      It is tempting to think that Lemaître’s deeply-held religious beliefs might have led him to the notion of a beginning of time. After all, the Judeo-Christian tradition had propagated a similar idea for millennia. Yet Lemaître clearly insisted that there was neither a connection nor a conflict between his religion and his science. Rather he kept them entirely separate, treating them as different, parallel interpretations of the world, both of which he believed with personal conviction. Indeed, when Pope Pius XII referred to the new theory of the origin of the universe as a scientific validation of the Catholic faith, Lemaître was rather alarmed. Delicately, for that was his way, he tried to separate the two:

      “As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being… For the believer, it removes any attempt at familiarity with God… It is consonant with Isaiah speaking of the hidden God, hidden even in the beginning of the universe.”

  7. “He had no compassion at all” said his ex wife. That says a lot. There are people that just cannot empathize with others. It may be a genetic defect, or perhaps a result of a bad upbringing, who knows.

  8. Jeff … My close encounters with animal predators, of the Grizzly kind, supports your ideas. My encounters with wolves reveals a much higher sense of what is necessary for survival and what in their minds is right or wrong….or at the least, makes some sense to them in their world. I can’t explain it, really, except that wolves are early dogs and behave that way. You have to be a true idiot fool to provoke a wolf to harm you or anyone not considered “prey” in their terms…and two legged creatures don’t seem to be in that group in their minds….all myths aside. And I’ve been within a foot or two of wild wolves. Nervous, yes, but always left unharmed. Grizzlies, on the other hand, just react to a perceived threat, even if not present….nearly mindless without a lot of “tutoring.” Even Casey Anderson, who has “Brutus” ( a Grizzly he raised from a cub) will tell you that Griz is Griz and never take him/her for granted. His refuge place is near where I spend time in Montana and it is worth a visit if ever near Bozeman. It’s just east of town on the freeway, with an exit near-by. Looks like a tourist trap, but it is far from that…very far. He built it himself years ago, when Brutus was a youngster, and now that NatGeo Wild has taken him on it is a great place to visit if you want to learn about animals without the unexpected close encounters.

  9. That tiger had intent to kill- animals do think- but admittedly the animal had no consciousness that it was doing something wrong. We kill the animal because it is unpredictable and cannot be deterred by the threat of punishment like a rational human being. Criminal culpability rests on the concept that a person has an opportunity to refrain from acting criminally but voluntarily chooses to do otherwise. If a person has no mental capability to avoid criminal conduct then it not rational to punish him for doing so. An truly insane person is unable to make a rational decision to avoid criminal conduct. Unlike the animal, however, we do not shoot him because we can institutionalize him until he becomes sane. Then we shoot him…. 😉

    1. Jeff Silberman

      An truly insane person is unable to make a rational decision to avoid criminal conduct. Unlike the animal, however, we do not shoot him because we can institutionalize him until he becomes sane. Then we shoot him

      Just a question Jeff and not to change the subject or anything but, do you really think that people are insane that have their prayers answered in different ways as long as they don’t go around and put that on other people in cultish ways and so forth like say Charles Manson?

      1. happypappies – remember our prayers are always answered. Sometimes the answer is no. 🙂

        1. Paul C. Schulte

          “As far as I can see, such a theory remains entirely outside any metaphysical or religious question. It leaves the materialist free to deny any transcendental Being… For the believer, it removes any attempt at familiarity with God… It is consonant with Isaiah speaking of the hidden God, hidden even in the beginning of the universe.”

          Is like the Gloria Patri – Yes, even the Universal Catholic Churches do it. Very comforting and real.. 😉

          1. happypappies – I think it is a line from Sister Mary Ignatius Tells it All

    2. Jeff, isn’t criminal prosecution mostly about an action that causes harm rather than about the intent of a person?

      You said previously:
      “Motivation (hate, money, etc) is irrelevant to criminal culpability. Motivation serves to show whodunit.”

      Motivation and intent are both internal subjective things. Harmful action is an external objective thing. Good laws seem to focus on punishing the external thing, the harmful action.

      In regards to punishment, isn’t sentencing about more than punishment? Isn’t it really about preventing further harm?

      I seem to be missing a piece somewhere, but I can’t quite figure out what it is.


    “His current wife, Karen Hicks, said her husband “champions the rights of others” and said the killings “had nothing do with religion or the victims’ faith.” She then issued another brief statement through her lawyer, saying she’s divorcing him.”

    “Imad Ahmad, who lived in the condo until December, said Hicks complained about once a month that he and Barakat were parking in a visitor’s space as well as their assigned spot. “He would come over to the door, knock on the door and then have a gun on his hip saying, `You guys need to not park here,'” said Ahmad, a graduate student in chemistry at UNC-Chapel Hill.”

    “Hicks’ ex-wife, Cynthia Hurley, said that before they divorced about 17 years ago, his favorite movie was “Falling Down,” the 1993 Michael Douglas film about a divorced unemployed engineer who goes on a shooting rampage. “That always freaked me out,” Hurley said. “He watched it incessantly. He thought it was hilarious. He had no compassion at all,” she said.”

  11. Why a person kills, i.e., religious hatred, ought to be irrelevant in criminal jurisprudence. It should only bear upon the perpetrator’s sentence. The law is concerned with the dangerousness of human conduct and that is a function of the magnitude of the harm at risk and the likelihood of it being inflicted. A hatred for the victim does not increase the magnitude of the harm inflicted though it could be argued that a hateful person is more of a threat to society than a person who kills for another reason, e.g., money.

  12. Said another way, in the photos of the victims I see people that could easily be my neighbors. Most are delightful people just going about their business…and I mean in both personally and in the entrepreneurial sense. My neighbors definitely saved my neighborhood from becoming a ghetto and have built more new than anyone in a very long time. Were it to happen in my neighborhood, I am the one who would be filled with rage, and hopefully be able to control it. I am sure I could due to my experiences but the hint of bigotry in this affair just bothers me.

  13. Interesting, and gracious comments on this topic, I must say…and I envy those who can see past something I take very personally. That might be the “plank” in my eye. Can anyone explain to me how a man, bigoted or not, executes three people with shots to the head, one, two, three, and not be filled with hate? Hate crime is of course not the main issue, murder is the main issue. But to do it so methodically (a presumption) bothers me from more than just a murder stand point. When you shoot a man and he goes down, in other than the fog of warfare, what drives you to methodically do it again, and again, in the same fashion? Head shots are not easy to make (except in Hollywood), you have to try hard to do it with three people who likely aren’t all sitting still waiting for it. I just cannot get the idea out of my mind that more than rage is at play.

    However, I would like to do so…just can’t so far…who ever said we should wait for more details is likely right, and I await those details. Meanwhile the affair makes my stomach churn, literally. I desperately do not want this to be a hate crime first and murder 2nd, because it violates all of my values, both in taking of lives without threat to one’s self, and the coincidence that all three were relatively observant Muslims….relatively I say because of their manner of dress, without all the Wahhabist or Salafist dreck. I don’t have trouble with coincidence when one person is killed, but I do when it is three all in a row.

  14. The “leading” anti-theists write books, promote humanitarian principles, and speak at atheist gatherings. They debate Muslims, Christians, and Jews non-violently.

    For many theists their religion is a defining characteristic. For another to reject it feels like a personal aggression. Some react violently to this perceived attack — and act in self defense. Kill the infidels. Kill the Protestants, kill the Catholics, because of their belief. The ultimate thought crime.

    When a father stalks and kills his daughter’s rapist I dare say he hated the victim. Was it a hate crime?

    Hicks anti-Muslim attitude may have contributed to his crime. Should he be punished for this thought crime?

    1. Old.George – as much as I can tell from the press right now it could have been 3 pink elephants in the car that he was have a parking space dispute with. Would the lede have been “Three Pink Elephants Murdered in North Carolina in Possible Hate Crime?” or “Three Pink Elephants Murdered in North Carolina in Parking Space Dispute”?

    2. Old George

      If he knew right from wrong in any one of these religions he was taught to have the state handle the problem and not he himself. He knows he is not God Almighty so yes, he is wrong and knows better. There is no excuse. Not for a crime of the monstrosity of the human ego

  15. DBQ
    The need to blame the little old Catholic lady down the street for what some priest did in a parish half way around the world from her, a priest she never meet, customarily is rooted in WHAT?

    Yet, it’s never when you do it.

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